Mid-Season Review: Brisbane Broncos

Position after 13 rounds: 7th <br>Wins: 6<br>Losses: 6<br>Byes: 1<br>Points: 14<br>Differential: 7 <br><br>It’s been a mixed bag for the Brisbane side so far this year, with injuries and representative selection giving the team a stuttering start to the season.<br><br>The Broncos are sitting 7th on the table, having won six and lost six games so far. They had a horror losing streak to begin season 2010, with the elation of beating the Cowboys in the traditional Round 1 derby nullified by four consecutive losses to the Raiders, Warriors, Roosters and Dragons.<br><br>But things are looking up for the Broncs, with the return of Peter Wallace to the halves taking some pressure off their inspirational captain Darren Lockyer – and things appear to be coming together, with a massive 36-14 win over the Storm in Melbourne, and a 22-point victory over their little brother, the Gold Coast Titans.<br><br>They’re now looking stronger than ever, with wins over Cronulla and Manly in tough road trips to Sydney catapulting them into the top eight and the back into the minds of future oppositions.<br><br>Are Things Going To Plan? If you consider that only Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday and Alex Glenn have played all 12 games for the Broncos this season, then probably not. <br><br>Lockyer has been left with the task of guiding a fairly young team around the park at different stages of the season, with the club left to field yet another version of their seemingly perennial “Baby Broncos”. As it was, the Broncos fielded a backline with an average age of 20 in their Round 4 loss to the Roosters.<br><br>However, it hasn’t all been bad news in Brisbane. It was widely thought they would get a shellacking against the Storm as Melbourne christened AAMI Park in Round 9, but the Baby Broncos delivered, smashing the Storm.<br><br>Their defence, which let in 149 points in their four losses, appears to have corrected itself, with the Broncos letting in only 30 points in their past four encounters.<br><br><b>Injury Front…</b> The Broncos have had a horror run with injury this year, forcing Henjak to blood a number of young players. Dynamic centre Justin Hodges will not be back until Round 20, and big guns Corey Parker, Peter Wallace and Israel Folau have all spent time on the sideline. <br><br>Although it’s been tough for Brisbane, the upside of the injury crisis is that new talent has been found – with young players like Matt Gillett and Corey Norman getting a run in first grade. Gillett has been especially impressive, cementing a starting spot in the squad, with five tries, five line-breaks and three try assists to his name.<br><br><b>If Only…</b> The Broncos could get a consistent team on the field. They’ve shown in the past three rounds that they can again be the powerhouse team which any punter would back for a top eight spot. <br><br>Coach Ivan Henjak is hopeful the team’s injury woes are over, and Broncos fans will be as well – with the same 1-17 turning up each week, the Broncos are a frightening proposition for any opposing team.<br><br><b>Who’s Flying…</b> Has Darren Lockyer ever not flown? Lockyer has chalked up 10 try assists, nine line-break assists and four line-breaks so far. As well as that, Lockyer is easily one of the most aggressive kickers in the game, having made 3430 metres from kicks. <br><br>Although they have missed some big names over the past few weeks, many have underestimated just how important Corey Parker is to the fabric of the team. Parker makes an average of 133.3 metres and 38 tackles per match, getting through a mountain of work as well as having a great record with the boot, kicking goals at a rate of 79.5 per cent. <br><br>Sam Thaiday has been roaring, averaging the second highest metres in his team’s forwards, with 125.3 per game. <br><br>And Ben Te’o has also developed into an important cog in the starting 13, making 51 tackle-breaks in 11 games. <br>&nbsp; <br><b>Needs To Lift…</b> It’s hard to pick a problem with the Broncos, with everyone putting in good efforts across the park. What is worrying for the squad though is that four of their six losses have been by 18 points or more. <br><br>While they do get a lot of traffic run at them, Darren Lockyer and Sam Thaiday lead the missed tackles list with 46 and 39 respectively. Peter Wallace also misses an average of 3.7 tackles per game. But as has been mentioned, the Broncos have completed a 180-degree turn in the past few weeks, with Ivan Henjak ensuring a lot of work was put into defence.<br><b><br>Coach Ivan Henjak Tells NRL.com…</b> “As a team we’ve slowly got ourselves back into the contest… it’s a lot of hard work but we’re showing positive sides about going forward now which is good. <br><br>“If we can get our best team on the paddock and keep them there we’re confident that we can compete with anyone.”<br><br>Predicted Finish Despite their slow start, you can bet the Broncos will be there at the end. At the very least, they will be in the bottom half of the top eight.<br><b><br>Under-20s…</b> The Junior (not Baby) Broncos go from strength to strength, with the Brisbane Toyota Cup team sitting inside the top four. Their current no.7 Corey Norman has made seven appearances in first grade, which is sure to hold them in good stead with his ability to work under pressure when the season gets to the business end. There is ample talent in the Broncos team, with fullback Dane Gagai leading the competition in return metres from kicks, while centre Dale Copley is leading the try-scoring list as well as being the top line-breaker.